Death Race 2018: Rise of the Machines

ped1Elaine Herzberg has the dubious distinction of being the first pedestrian killed by an autonomously-driven Uber vehicle which was undergoing tests in Tempe, AZ. Apparently Herzberg was in the process of crossing a busy street while walking her bicycle when she was struck. Although the Uber car was monitored by a human in the driver seat (who was not paying attention, according to video from inside the car), the self-driving system did not respond in time.

Uber temporarily suspended tests in Arizona and California, and then quickly settled with Herzberg’s family – presumably to avoid a court case that could have set ugly precedents for dealing with accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

Clearly, the specter of imperfect robotic vehicles barreling down the road has instilled fear in many who call for a moratorium on testing – and even a ban on deploying the technology altogether.

It’s unfortunate that a shitty company like Uber has invested in autonomous R&D, because they are bound to cut corners and deviate from safety standards which will invariably lead to more negative stories like Herzberg’s – and to more calls to slow down or stop the research. No one is better positioned to scuttle peoples’ confidence than the inept fools at Uber.

That would be too bad. As the technology improves and finds itself embedded into more and more vehicles, allowing them to communicate with each other and share data, highway safety will improve.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “In 2013, there were 4,735 pedestrians killed and an estimated 66,000 injured in traffic crashes in the United States. A total of 4,653 traffic crashes each had one or more pedestrian fatalities. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes in traffic crashes.”

Strangely, none of this generated a call to ban human drivers.

A fatality every 2 hours, and yet no one is calling for human-operated vehicles to be banned. In fact, the trend seems to be leaning toward increasing punishment of the jaywalking pedestrian rather than the motorist. Last December, a guy in Saugerties, NY stepped into traffic from between two park cars, was struck by a car, went to the hospital for shoulder and hip injuries, and received a ticket for failure to yield right of way to vehicle.

So let’s be cool when autonomous vehicles occasionally mow down granny, and think instead of the wonders to come.

Just offer free Amazon Prime and shut him up

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Trump is upset at Amazon for not paying enough taxes. This from a guy who said minimizing taxes makes a person smart, and probably paid nothing in federal taxes for more than a decade. He also doesn’t like that Amazon sends some of its products using the US Postal Service, deriding the on-line retailer for treating the USPS like a “delivery boy.” The Postal Service hasn’t weighed in on whether it feels like a delivery boy, but they have stated plainly that the contracts they have with Amazon cover costs (which is a concept you rarely connect with the Postal Service.)

Trump has a boner for Amazon for shirking taxes, but he’s flaccid when it comes to other profitable corporations that paid no federal taxes in recent years, such as International Paper, Priceline.com, General Electric, and Duke Energy.

Most likely Trump is pissed because he hates the coverage he gets from the Washington Post which is owned by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. In fact, Trump has often tweeted about negative WaPo articles as fake news and sometimes ends his 140 character tirades with #AmazonWashingtonPost – as if Amazon owns the newspaper.

As with much of what Trump says and does, his attacks on Amazon – because he hates the coverage he gets from a newspaper tangentially connected to the company – are bad for the country. As are his slams against the NY Times, and CNN, as well as his cocksucking endorsements of Fox News and (of all things) grocery store faveThe National Enquirer.

When an insecure, narcissist leader like Trump gets to punish and reward companies based on the level to which they are willing to lick his ass, real trouble abounds.

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